Last year we launched our Venture Partner programme – an innovative and collaborative programme that is aimed at experienced, connected and successful individuals who have a desire to add value and potentially provide mentorship, advice, introductions and investment to the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Here we catch up with Nick Themistocleous, one of our venture partners. Nick has more than 30 years’ industry experience having spent his career in a number of financial, sales and marketing roles within the automotive sector, most recently with Ford Motor Company.
During his career, he has supported small and large businesses and sees funding as the oxygen needed to drive business growth. He joined our venture partner programme at the beginning of 2020 and we caught up with him to find out a bit more about his experience so far.
What attracted you to the venture partner programme?
I was introduced to Praetura Ventures and their venture partner programme through a business contact – when making any investment decision you need to have trust and confidence in a provider, so for me, being introduced through someone I know and respect held much more value. Recommendations mean a lot as they are built on someone’s personal equity, and while you will always go on to do your own due diligence before investing, it has always been my preferred route in.
Once I met the team at Praetura Ventures there was an instant connection – they were very impressive in a down to earth way, and it was clear they knew what they were talking about. I had confidence in their investment strategy.
What stands out about the venture partner programme?
At the end of the day any investor is looking for a return, so you need to have trust and confidence in the team that will be investing your money – and just as they back management teams, I backed them.
Their communication – both in terms of the volume and clarity of their messages – as well as their partnership approach, stood out. All communication channels provide a clear, consistent overview of how individual businesses are performing and if there are some that are behind target they don’t sugar coat the results – I am always left feeling as if I know exactly where things are up to and how this could impact the return I may expect from my investment. This gives me confidence in their approach.
It is also really helpful as many of the businesses Praetura Ventures has invested in operate in sectors I’m not too familiar with. This means transparent communication is even more important, and I know that if I have a question it will always get answered – however difficult it may be. You tell the team what you want to know and they will get the answers for you.
As part of the programme I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting the founders behind the businesses Praetura Ventures has invested in – I’ve always left these meetings feeling impressed and that shows the team isn’t all talk!
What skills and advice do you bring to firms within the Praetura Ventures portfolio?
The Praetura Ventures portfolio really demonstrates the exciting businesses that are out in the market at the moment – there are so many young, talented entrepreneurs doing fantastic things with tech. In order to add value, I look at the situation through the lens of a football player/manager relationship and I’ve provided advice for many in the portfolio on how to look at and overcome challenges they may have faced.
This is hugely rewarding and definitely one of the added value benefits of the venture partner programme. It’s a fantastic opportunity for anyone looking for engagement with the businesses they’re investing in and in some respects allows you to play a pseudo non-executive role.
What drives you to want to support new start-up and scale-up businesses?
Any investor would be lying if they said they weren’t first and foremost looking for a return, but the real stimulus is knowing you can support the growth of these businesses. When you feel part of the cog that keeps these businesses going from strength-to-strength you get a lot back. It’s this emotional connection to supporting growth that gives you as much satisfaction as the returns on your investment.
In your opinion, what are some of the most exciting firms within the Praetura Ventures portfolio?
There are two that really attracted my attention – Patchwork, a healthtech start-up that matches up labour to help fill vacant NHS shifts, has a very strong business model and is in even more demand now following the pandemic. The business always looked strong, but recent events have accelerated demand for its services and the team has responded really well to this demand.
Then there’s RapidSpike, Praetura Ventures’ most recent investment, which helps businesses to enhance the security and performance of their websites. You don’t realise how few businesses have the levels of online protection they need and again there’s a real demand from businesses to help them prevent cybercrime.
The other point that really stood out for Praetura Ventures is their northern approach and their commitment to invest at least two-thirds of the fund in businesses based here. As a Yorkshireman I know there is a lot of talent right here in our region that has been underdeveloped, and now is the right time to invest in those businesses and support them.
Is there a common thread between the businesses Praetura Ventures invests in?
For me, they’re all fantastic businesses with strong management teams. The people behind them are just as important as the businesses themselves.
Would you recommend the venture partner programme to other investors?
Yes – as long as you know there is risk involved. Venture capital investment isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you weigh up the risk against the potential reward it is certainly worth looking into. I’d say it’s best suited to someone who makes emotional decisions and understands the risk.